October 13, 2012
Crisp autumn air filling your lungs, a clear blue sky, leaves tinged with rich seasonal color…our October 13th wedding fell on a traditional fall day. Which was a blessing, because our country-themed wedding was outdoors.
We began planning our wedding two years before the actual day would arrive. Before mason jars were all the rage, before rustic became the new crystal ballroom, we planned for a county fair-themed, classy, country, rustic wedding. Both Russell and I are from the sticks, and we prefer laid back and BBQ over fine china and 18 forks.
So that’s what we planned for – a ceremony held in an herb garden, under a willow tree; BBQ chicken and brisket for the main courses; caramel apples and pumpkin fudge on the sweets table; a bonfire and hay bail couches for roasting s’mores. We danced to our favorite old country songs; carved pumpkins and lanterns lit the way for guests. I put a lot of hard work and elbow grease into our special day, and looking back, I’m certainly glad I did. It was 100 percent worth it.
But I’ll tell you, as a sort of honest disclaimer – no wedding is ever going to be perfect, and anyone who says it is is lying through their teeth. Things happen. It rains, guests show up late, that one Uncle Tony drinks way too much wine and hits on the bridesmaids…it happens. Family members and friends will probably cause drama. You’ll owe your best friends for life for pulling you through it. Weddings are expensive, dramatic, and stressful. It comes with the territory. But you know what? Years later, when all of that stress is a distant memory and the rose-colored glasses are on, you’ll look back at photos and you’ll think, man. That day really was special. So hire a good photographer.
Both our ceremony and reception were held at Succop Conservancy in Butler, Pennsylvania. We were married in the herb garden, under a willow tree, overlooking a pond. Our reception was in an outdoor tent/pavilion on the property. The wrought-iron work on the front porch of the old farm house was what made me fall in love with the place on our first visit.
I wasn’t nervous until right before the wedding, when my ears started burning and I had to open a window for some cool air. We have some hilarious video of me yelling about my ears being on fire and fanning myself while coming down with a fit of nervous giggles. Otherwise, getting ready was peaceful, relaxing, and an enjoyable experience. The best part was spending the morning with my girls and watching everything come together after so many months of dress rehearsals.
My girls all wore different colored dresses, and we all wore cowboy boots, even the groom. The groomsmen had custom ties created to match our wedding colors of dark pink and burnt orange. I gave the girls floral robes to get ready in as part of their bridesmaid gift, and the funny picture of us below being supermodels is one of my favorites from the wedding. I slipped a penny in my boot for good luck, but didn’t take any shots beforehand. Those shenanigans happened on the groom’s side.
A few minutes before we were set to get in place, Russell and I took a “sneak-peak-without-the-peak” photo by standing on opposite sides of a door. This brief, five-minute moment was what I needed before we walked down the aisle. I had to hear his voice, hold his hand, shed a tear, and tell him if he didn’t cry when he saw me in the dress, it was going back. (I had nothing to worry about on that last one). Then…it began.
Our ceremony was incredibly special. We spent hours working with our officiate to have a few unique traditions incorporated. We literally tied the knot, courtesy of our best man, who tied a piece of crochet ribbon to bind our wrists together in an old-fashioned hand fasting ceremony. Then, as our first gift to husband and wife, we gave each other roses. This tradition holds true to this day; any time we want to show that we are still in love, we leave a rose for the other to find. The two from our wedding have a home on our mantle. Our ceremony, promising forever to each other, was my absolute favorite part of our day.
The food was the highlight of our reception: BBQ chicken, brisket, fire-roasted vegetables, pasta with a vodka sauce, jambalaya, cornbread…hmm. So. Good. I was in love with our wedding feast. We served raspberry and peach wine, Octoberfest and Yuengling beer, and a Mason Dixon (half sweet tea, half lemonade vodka and simple syrup) as our signature cocktail. Our escort cards were individual packages of kettle corn, and we served bacon-wrapped BBQ water chestnuts and bruchetta during cocktail hour. For the traditional bridal dance, we soaked maraschino cherries in Kool-Aid, sugar, and vanilla vodka for a few weeks before the wedding, then our best man, Shayne, handed the shots out during the dance. They were potent. I have before and after photos of our wedding party to prove it.
The best part about any Pennsylvania wedding is the cookie table, and our family and friends did not disappoint. Special shout out to my step-mom, Shirl, and her good friend Glenda, who probably baked half of the 1500+ cookies we had themselves. We still have dozens of wedding cookies in our chest freezer, because we don’t want to throw them out! We also served fudge, caramel apples, and fruit pies. We placed a “Favorite Flavor Pie” contest on our RSVP cards, and our guests picked which flavors we served at our wedding. Blackberry swept the competition, but pumpkin held for a strong second place. Our sweets table was complete with a raspberry and white almond buttercream wedding cake.
Our bridal party entered the reception to Cheap Trick and Miley Cyrus, and Russell and I danced our first dance as husband and wife to Garth Brook’s cover of “To Make You Feel My Love.” My favorite song of the evening? The ever-popular “Call Me Maybe.” To which I threw my back out dancing to. Not. Kidding. (We actually left our wedding early because I couldn’t walk in my dress and didn’t have anything to change into). See? Like I said, weddings are not perfect.
But they can be close.
We, like every other couple out there, did not have enough time to take portraits before the reception started on account of family portraits taking much longer than expected. So we snuck out after dinner to take a few more snapshots, and I’m happy we did – I liked the balance between having the classy photos with my veil still on, and the more casual photos with just Russ and I enjoying our wedding.
To me, the heart of the wedding is in the details. You have to incorporate yourself and your soon-to-be-spouse into the wedding if it’s going to be perfect to you, and Russell and I did that as best we could. It doesn’t matter if anyone else understands, either. For example, one of our favorite movies is Forest Gump – so one of my bridesmaids had our cake tasting forks engraved with “peas” and “carrots.” One of my favorite flowers are dahlias, so we used them everywhere. Russell and I also spent hours glittering tiny pumpkins to place on tables because I wanted some autumn glitz. His sister, Deanna, sang one of our favorite songs at the ceremony. Neither of us are Irish, but we included an Irish blessing because it spoke to both of us. Russell’s mother/son dance was to “Simple Man” and Russell’s dad carved our initials into pumpkins for us as a surprise. My dad created us a wooden card box that’s a small trunk we use in house today. The details make the day come together, and there are no rules. Do what makes your wedding the best celebration for the both of you.
Special Thanks To…
Location: Succop Conservancy | Caterer and Coordinator: Pete Medure, Medure’s Catering | Florist: The Bloomery | Photographer: Jenni Grace Photography | Officiate and Day-of Planner/Second Photographer: Rev. Mark DeNuzzio and Jeanie DeNuzzio, A Simple Vow | Wedding Cake: Autumn Bupp, Autumn’s Cakes | Hair and Makeup: Alayna Gates, Salon Bella (Be.Salon) | Dress: Casablanca Bridal, Style #1900. Retailer: MB Bride | Veil: Bridal Beginning | Invitations and Programs: The Bride Shop